Love Birds

★★★
music review | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 16 Aug 2015

Ever wondered what Mary Poppins' penguin waiters did next? According to his colourful, camp and family-friendly new musical, they spent the roaring twenties performing in an all-bird vaudeville revue. Not that they're those exact penguins, they hasten to add – that would be a copyright infringement.

It's 1923. Emcee'd by a scrupulously moral dinosaur called Armitage Shanks, the Love Birds find themselves in a tricky stylistic transition, as the demand for raunchier numbers threatens its squeaky-clean reputation. Shanks tries to keep the loose ethics of the era at bay. Robert J. Sherman's book plays on this, seeking to find a balance between child-appropriate banter and cheeky innuendo for adult ears. A few of the revue's avian stars do get a little too friendly with each other.

The show will be best enjoyed by adults with young children. Its whimsical kookiness, endearingly heightened by Gabriella Slade's brash, rainbow-feathered design, may be a bit much for other audiences, although its smattering of references to classic broadway musicals ('Ladies Who Lunch' from Sondheim's Company gets a nod, among others) will be appreciated by fans of the genre.

Love Birds' storyline's a little thin to sustain a full-on musical, but the revue-style format almost justifies this, and the songs themselves are joyfully performed. The dance sequences can be a little shaky at times—a prop goes flying into the front row at one point—but the show's quirky exuberance forgives its occasional slap-dash slip.